The July 1936 Heat Wave

July 1936, part of the "Dust Bowl", produced one of the hottest summers on record across the country, especially across the Plains, Upper Midwest, and Great Lakes regions.  Nationally, about 5,000 people died from the heat.  The heat was accentuated due to a prolonged drought that was affecting the region, and poor farming methods which left little vegetation to help mitigate the hot temperatures.  In Illinois, many locations saw peak temperatures in excess of 110 degrees at the height of the heat wave, with all-time high temperature records established during this period. 

July 1936 average temperatures across the U.S.  Image courtesy of the National Climatic Data Center.

Average rainfall during the summer of 1936.  Image courtesy of the National Climatic Data Center.

Average temperatures during July 1936.  
(Image courtesy of the 
National Climatic Data Center)

Average rainfall during the summer 
of 1936.  (Image courtesy of the 
National Climatic Data Center)

Some of the records from the summer of 1936 that still stand:

Springfield:

  • 4 of its 10 hottest days on record occurred during July 1936, including an all-time high of 110 degrees on the 14th (which was later broken on July 14, 1954, with a high of 112).
  • Highs reached at least 100 degrees on 29 different days that year, including a record 12 consecutive days from July 4-15th.  In comparison, Springfield recently went 16 years between 100-degree occurrences (July 1995 until September 2011).
  • Low temperatures were in excess of 80 degrees nearly every day from the 7-14th.  July 13th and 14th, as well as the 26th, had lows of only 84 degrees.  These were the hottest nights on record in Springfield.
  • The Weather Bureau climate summary for that month reported that 30 people in Springfield died directly from the heat, and was a contributing factor in 20 other deaths.


Peoria:

  • 5 of the 6 hottest days on record in Peoria occurred from July 11-15th. 
  • The all-time high of 113 degrees was reported on the 15th, and broke the previous all-time record by 6 degrees.
  • There were 23 days in 1936 which reported highs of 100 degrees or higher.  This includes 14 consecutive days from the 4th through the 17th.
  • The monthly mean temperature of 84.3 degrees was 3 degrees higher than any other month on record.

 

Climate Statistics from July 1936
Location Daily Mean
Temperature
(°F)
Average
High Temperature
(°F)
Highest
Temperature
(°F)
Days
>= 100°F
Notable
Occurrences
Bloomington 84.2 99.8 114 on 15th 
(all-time record)
17 Highs >= 100 from the 4-17th.  
3 days with highs 110 or higher (12th, 14th, 15th).
Charleston 84.7 99.0 110 on 14th and 15th
(all-time record)
15 Highs >= 105 from 6-15th.  
7 of top 10 highs occurred during this period.  
Danville 82.1 98.8 112 on 14th
(all-time record)
15 7 of top 10 highs occurred during this period. 
3 days with highs 110 or higher (11th, 14th, 15th).
Decatur 84.1 98.9 110 on 14th
(2nd highest on record)
17 Highs >= 100 from 4-17th; low of 80 on 15th.  
Was all-time record high until 7/14/1954 (113 degrees).
Galesburg 84.0 95.7  112 on 15th
(all-time record)
17  Highs >= 100 from the 4-17th. 
Low of 83 on 14th and 15th.
Jacksonville 84.0 100.0  111 on 14th
(tied for 3rd highest on record)
18  Highs >= 100 from the 4-17th. 
Low of 81 on the 8th.  
Lincoln 85.1 100.1  113 on 15th
(all-time record)
17  Highs >= 100 from the 4-17th. 
4 straight days of 110 or higher (12-15th).
Olney 85.1 99.9  112 on 14th and 15th
(all-time record)
17  Highs >= 105 from 6-15th. 
4 days with 110 or higher (8th, 12th, 14-15th).
Palestine 85.0 99.2  112 on 14th
(2nd highest on record)
14  Highs >= 105 from 6-15th; low of 82 on 15th. 
Was all-time record high until 7/14/1954 (114 degrees).
Peoria 84.3 98.9  113 on 15th
(all-time record)
17  Highs >= 100 from the 4-17th. 
5 of the 6 hottest days on record in occurred from July 11-15th. 
Rushville 85.9 100.6  113 on 15th
(all-time record)
18  Highs >= 100 from the 4-17th; low of 85 on 26th. 
3 straight days of 110 or higher (13-15th).
Springfield 86.2 98.3  110 on 14th
(2nd highest on record)
17  Highs >= 100 from the 4-15th. 
Was all-time record high until 7/14/1954 (112 degrees).
Urbana 83.0 95.9  108 on 14th
(2nd highest on record)
13  Low of 80 on 8th. 
7 of top 10 highs occurred during the month.
Windsor 83.9 98.0 111 on 14th 
(all-time record)
14 Highs >= 100 from the 5-15th. 
Low of 81 on 15th.


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